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Tetris Clones Pulled From Android Market 396

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-bears dept.
sbrubblesman writes "The Tetris Company, LLC has notified Google to remove all Tetris clones from Android Market. I am one of the developers of FallingBlocks, a game with the same gameplay concepts as Tetris. I have received an email warning that my game was suspended from Android Market due to a violation of the Developer Content Policy. When I received the email, I already imagined that it had something to do with it being a Tetris clone, but besides having the same gameplay as Tetris, which I believe cannot be copyrighted, the game uses its own name, graphics and sounds. There's no reference to 'Tetris' in our game. I have emailed Google asking what is the reason for the application removal. Google promptly answered that The Tetris Company, LLC notified them under the DMCA (PDF) to remove various Tetris clones from Android Market. My app was removed together with 35 other Tetris clones. I checked online at various sources, and all of them say that there's no copyright on gameplay. There could be some sort of patent. But even if they had one, it would last 20 years, so it would have been over in 2005. It's a shame that The Tetris Company, LLC uses its power to stop developers from creating good and free games for Android users. Without resources for a legal fight, our application and many others will cease to exist, even knowing that they are legit. Users will be forced to buy the paid, official version, which is worse than many of the ones available for free on the market. Users from other countries, such as Brazil in my case, won't even be able to play the official Tetris, since Google Checkout doesn't exist in Brazil; you can't buy paid applications from Android Market in these countries."
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Tetris Clones Pulled From Android Market

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  • shame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jDeepbeep (913892) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:52AM (#32373706)
    Falling Blocks is a nice little game. It's on my phone right now, so here's hoping that Google won't 'pull an Amazon' and vanish it off the device.
    • Re:shame (Score:5, Informative)

      by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:58AM (#32374268)
      And it's still there. [android.com]
      Look under "Top Free" and then "Brain and Puzzle" catagory.
      I don't know if Google already restored it or it never came down but it's definitely available.
      • Re:shame (Score:5, Informative)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:44AM (#32376924) Journal

        Under DMCA all you need to do is submit a Document declaring your work does not infringe anything, and the item MUST be put back up

        - If Google refuses, then you can sue them for breaking the law (the DMCA)

        - If they put it back up, then everything should be good. The only thing you need to fear is being sued, directly, by the Tetris Company.

    • As usual, slashdot missed the other informative story about how the Tetris Company never paid the real inventor anything.

      Yes, you should just contest the takedown with Google, they'll probably reinstate if you explain the situation clearly. And if "tetris" does not appear in you description, the Tetris company might never find you again.

      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:43AM (#32374664) Homepage

        As usual, slashdot missed the other informative story about how the Tetris Company never paid the real inventor anything.

        The Tetris Company *is* partly Alexey Pazhitnov's (i.e. the original inventor of Tetris). It was formed after he regained the rights to the game in the mid-1990s, long *after* the likes of Nintendo had released their uber-popular version of the game.

        So, on the one hand you could argue that Pazhitnov had the right to some payback through them. On the other hand, they don't (to the best of my knowledge) have the rights to Tetris-style gameplay in itself, only the trademarks, and it's pretty contemptible that they're using bullying abuse of the legal process to shut out Tetris clones, whether or not you believe those have the right to exist.

        It's also ironic that Pazhitnov invented a game was one whose appeal was its very simpleness, that isn't really enhanced by bells and whistles (which arguably detract from it), and that has little need for anything added beyond the archetypcal classic Game Boy version.... and yet the success of his Tetris Company depends on just that, i.e. selling endless new versions of that game which for the reasons given only ever end up being pointlessly bell-and-whistled bloatings of the original.

  • I wonder if you made a Pac-Man clone what Google might think of that?
  • by mtmra70 (964928)

    Reply to Google thanking them for policing the internet, but that your application does not violate any laws. Next thing you know the maker of the whoopie cushion will issue taken down notices for farting apps.

  • by Issarlk (1429361) on Friday May 28, 2010 @06:59AM (#32373738)
    Doen't the DMCA allow you to just send a "No I don't infringue on the copyright" back to Google and have your app not taken down?
    • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:37AM (#32374034)

      Yes, essentially. The procedure for content at another Google division is explained here [google.com]. A similar procedure should apply.

      In this case, the complaint seems to be primarily a trademark complaint which is probably easily addressed (you can say "Compare to Tetris(R)!" in a game description but you can't call your game "FreeTetris"). And a secondary, very vague claim that because the games are "similar" to the company's game that they use copyrighted material of the company. I don't know whether case law supports that or not, but according to what I've read in a quick Googling it probably doesn't.

      According to Wikipedia, this is standard operating procedure for The Tetris Company [wikipedia.org] and they've done the same with Apple's App Store. Not clear that The Tetris Company has ever won a lawsuit on these copyright grounds, but use it to beat small developers up.

      Additionally, they pressured a company Biosocia last year via lawsuit to take down their Blockles game. See the statement [tetris.com] on the outcome of that (it was settled, not litigated to conclusion - sounds like Biosocia got tired of spending money to fight the lawsuit and just agreed to take the damned game down while stating that they thought that Tetris Company was full of shit).

      • by ICLKennyG (899257) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:31AM (#32374568)
        This is one of the biggest problem with the DMCA. You have given all the power to the big conglomerates without making them risk anything in return. They just indiscriminately fire C&D letters like shotgun blasts and use them to anti-competitive effect. The only thing Tetris has is their trademark claim and a prevention on decompiling/copying their code or graphics in an exact manner. Feist [wikipedia.org] We need a broader application of Assessment Technologies [wikia.com].

        I'd be less critical of the DMCA if they had a penalty, $10,000 plus costs, for reckless or malicious take-down notices. You wouldn't get companies sending 25,000+ a day for 2 seconds of their content used in a fair use manner. This is what scares me so much about the MPEG 7 [slashdot.org].
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Dhalka226 (559740)

          This is one of the biggest problem with the DMCA. You have given all the power to the big conglomerates without making them risk anything in return. They just indiscriminately fire C&D letters like shotgun blasts and use them to anti-competitive effect.

          Because they didn't do that with cease and desist letters before the DMCA existed? The threat of legal action on frivolous claims has always been a severe deterrent, even when the receiving party knows they have no merit. The reality is that the little

    • by samkass (174571) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:58AM (#32374266) Homepage Journal

      Yes. Here's a good guide on what to do. [newmediarights.org]

    • On the other hand, that's *Android* phones we're speaking about. Not *iPhones*, and I know that Google isn't actively preventing hobbyist from hacking their phones.

      In case Google can't re-introduce the applications into the official apps Market, could the authors move their creation to some other place ?

      I don't have an android phone so I have to ask :
      - Is there anything similar to Palm Pre webOS's "PreWare" (a complete webos app which offers not only a nice interface to official repositories, but also to th

  • Old news? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Tetris company doesn't like clones [arstechnica.com]

    iPhone users hoping to download the free Tetris clone, Tris, had better do so quickly: the game is being pulled from the App Store on iTunes tomorrow due to pressure from both Apple and The Tetris Company, which owns the rights to Tetris.

    - August 26, 2008

    To the developers: pick a different game. Tetris has quite a litigious history [wikipedia.org]
    Or, more to the point... if you're going to spend the time to make a game clone, couldn't you at least do a quick google for "[Game] lawsuits"?

  • EFF, get together (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markus_baertschi (259069) <markusNO@SPAMmarkus.org> on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:05AM (#32373790)

    This might be a case where the EFF might be interested to help.

    Also, banding all together, you are 35 people strong, considerably lowering expenses.

    Markus

  • by Anonymous Coward

    After reading the document, the whole argument seems to hinge on the use of the Tetris registered name. (Many of the infringing applications were using the Tetris name in the application name)

    There are at least two dimensions on which you can get it back up:

    • As soon as possible, put your application back up, without putting any reference to anything named "Tetris".
    • Argue that saying "tetris-clone" in the description, at least, should be allowed - does the Xerox company have the possibility to sue you when yo
    • by hedwards (940851) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:47AM (#32374160)
      At least in the US you're allowed to use the trademark in referring to the original item. So regardless of what Apple might like you can use iPod, iPad, iMac all you like as long as you refer to their product. Likewise in this case regardless of what this outfit might think saying that something is a clone of the classic game Tetris is completely legal. It's not within the domain of trademark law to prevent that. At least not in the US.

      But that's trademarks, not copyright, how they think that they can use the DMCA to enforce that is beyond me. The DMCA only applies to the copyright not trademark.
  • ... Pong clone.... and see how fast we'll pull it...

  • Could be worse.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by draxil (198788) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:08AM (#32373810) Homepage

    Of course with Android you always have the option of getting software from sources other than the main sanctioned market. Unlike a certain other smartphone OS I could mention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by databyss (586137)

      Fully agreed.

      Although the key to visibility is still in the main market.

  • DMCA compliance (Score:5, Informative)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:09AM (#32373816)

    Google has to remove the items in question to be in safe waters with the DMCA.

    You can choose to assert that you own the copyright for your app. Once you do that, Google must forward your information to The Tetris Company, LLC, and reinstate your app. It now becomes a matter between you and The Tetris Company, LLC, and Google cannot be held liable for damages.

    Then if The Tetris Company, LLC chooses to do so, they can file a court case. That's probably the tricky bit, as you seem to indicate, that you're in Brazil and not the US, where they are likely to file.

    But - ask a lawyer. I'm not one, the above is just how I understand the DMCA works.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      Once you do that, Google must forward your information to The Tetris Company, LLC, ...

      Correct.

      ...and reinstate your app.

      Incorrect. They dont have to reinstate anything. The law does not force them to offer your product for download. Period.

      • by tepples (727027)

        The law does not force them to offer your product for download. Period.

        As I understand the statute (17 USC 512(g) [copyright.gov]), fourteen days days after Google receives the counter-notice, any contract that Google might have already had with you requiring Google to offer your product for download is reinstated.

  • Could it be that they only pulled it down from the US market due to DMCA pressure? Can't you file one of those counter-notice thingies?

  • DMCA is about copyright, not patents, so they shouldn't take down your application for presumed patent infringement. Tetris shouldn't be patentable anyway, but I wouldn't bet on what the USPTO would actually patent, whatever their policies are stating.

    AFAIK, takedown notices are preemptive strikes that you can object to.

    Write to Google that you own the copyright on your application and that The Tetris Company, LLC claims are illegitimate.

    From the wikipedia :

    Takedown notices targeting a competing business made up over half (57%) of the notices Google has received, the company said, and more than one-third (37%), "were not valid copyright claims."

    The Tetris Company, LLC seems to simply abuse the

    • by oiron (697563)

      Where'd you get that? They're only talking about TM and copyright in the PDF... There's nothing in there about patents that I can see.

      Not that games are actually copyrightable, at least in the US (which is where this was filed; DMCA and all)

      • by Sethumme (1313479)
        Games are copyrightable, but only for the visual and narrative elements, not the game mechanics.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        Because you can't copyright gameplay. You could theoretically patent it, but trademarks don't apply to that either. And given that the app doesn't use the word "Tetris" anywhere in it one can only assume that the trolls at The Tetris Company, LLC are confusing the terms. Not that they've even tried to get it patented as those would already be expired in pretty much any jurisdiction by now.
      • by Svartalf (2997)

        Ah, but the DMCA doesn't cover Trademark infringement- and you can't copyright game mechanics the way The Tetris Company thinks it can.

        It's a MISUSE of the DMCA.

    • The Tetris Company has no copyright to the Tetris gameplay or even the name .... the do have a trademark ...which none of the clones infringe if not called "Tetris" (or a near variant)

      DCMA abuse, clear and simple

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      The Tetris Company, LLC seems to simply abuse the DMCA.

      There is some legislation that can let you easily and quickly stiffle small competitors due to potential legal expenses, and companies are mis-using it on things it doesn't apply to? Say it isn't so! I'm sure all of our governments (whichever nation we live in) will be livid when they find out, will side with the good of the populate who voted them in and will resolve the loopholes and abuses to show those nasty corporations where they stand.

      And back in

  • Okay! (Score:2, Funny)

    Let's patent the patent system. And see what happens.
    • I think there's some prior art to be found.
      For once, you'd actually see the trolls pointing it out. So you're saying you want to force them to prove they understand the concept of prior art? Brilliant!

  • How does this effect people who already bought the game? Does Google disable the game on the phones and people get a refund? Does Google pay the fees to the Tetris company and leave the installations? So many details are left untouched.
  • by cshay (79326) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:19AM (#32373896)
    I just went to the Android Market, searched for it, found it, and downloaded it.
  • There's definitely much wrong with this situation. Google should allow you to put it back if you file a counter-claim. Also, before removing the alleged infringing content, shouldn't they have contacted you about it first? I'm no DMCA expert or anything, but I thought that the notice was supposed to give you an opportunity to counter-claim before the damage was done to the alleged.

    Gameplay can't be copyrighted... not yet... it would still fall into the realm of patents since it's operational in nature.

  • My phone has a keyboard, and the developers of Tetris for Android won't let me use it. Have you ever tried playing Tetris using a touch screen? It's a joke.
  • If you're writing an app for a phone that has a restricted "app store", you are completely at the mercy of whoever is running the app store. They can pull your game (and with it your revenue stream) at any time for any reason, legitimately or not. That's the market you put yourself in, and that means that regardless of moral justifications this sort of story is hardly surprising, and barely news.

    You might have gotten into that game by thinking "I keep hearing about the people who are making hundreds of thou

  • So people can install your FallingBlocks tetris clone without using Android Market. Android is not locked down to only being to install software from one place. You are even free to implement an AlternaMarket. (I don't know do any already exist?)

  • Money talks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by houbou (1097327) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:56AM (#32374248) Journal
    The old arcade games are getting a new lease on life with these mobile devices. So that's why they are doing this, it's simple economics. I mean whoever wrote Pacman, etc.. never thought they would be able eventually to play it on a phone. This is a new revenue stream and they want in on it. In a way, they wrote the original code, they had the inspiration to do it. So, they do deserve some credits in some form. When someone decides to write a "clone" version of a game.. Maybe he's improving it, or not, it doesn't matter. This person isn't being 'original'. This person took someone else work and recreated it. Bottom line, I would say, if someone goes out of their way to recreate someone else's effort for money, don't be surprised if the creators get a hissy fit about it :)
  • What do you expect from a one-hit wonder? Innovation?
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:12AM (#32374394) Homepage Journal
    As soon as I read this story, I did a Google search for Falling Blocks for Android, went to his web site, and downloaded the game to my G1. That's the beauty of a phone OS that allows you to choose whether you want to be able to install out-of-market apps. My "trendy" iPhone-using friends wouldn't have had that option -- if Apple says you can't have it, you can't have it.
  • I'm downloading it to my HTC Desire as I type. Doesn't look pulled to me.

  • BitBlocks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by amoeba1911 (978485) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:02AM (#32375594) Homepage

    Hey, I'm on the same boat. I also made a really awesome game of falling 4th order polyominoes (tetris style game) called BitBlocks. It was wildly successful, had much better ratings than even the official Tetris game by EA. My game was on the Android Market for 3 months, and became one of the top 5 games for the Android. On March 9th it got removed from the Android Market.

    Your options are limited. You can't fight The Tetris Company because you can't afford the lawyer expenses. If you did have the money to fight The Tetris Company, you would surely win in court, but the court victory would be a loss for The Tetris Company as well as you because it would mean The Tetris Company no longer has any authority to stop people from making falling block games and there would be a flood of falling block games on the market, perhaps some even better than your game. (See Lotus vs Borland, in the end Borland won, but Lotus and Borland both lost when Microsoft came out with Excel)

    What The Tetris Company is doing is anti-competitive. Under The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, monopolizing a trade using anti-competitive practices is a felony punishable by up to $10,000,000 fine and three year jail sentence. According to DOJ web site:

    The Sherman Act also makes it a crime to monopolize any part of interstate commerce. An unlawful monopoly exists when only one firm controls the market for a product or service, and it has obtained that market power, not because its product or service is superior to others, but by suppressing competition with anticompetitive conduct.

    (http://www.justice.gov/atr/laws.htm) -- that paragraph entirely describes what The Tetris Company is doing with falling block games.

    I don't know if the DOJ will care or even lift a finger, but it's worth a try and if people on slashdot can create a big enough wave perhaps they will be swayed to investigate The Tetris Company. You can report antitrust concern here: http://www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm [justice.gov]

    So I urge all slashdotters to file a complaint with the Department of Justice. Show you care about tetris, file a complaint against The Tetris Company! It's time we put an end to their monopoly.

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